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The not-so-changing times

What are the odds that an active pro athlete will come out?

Technically, the times are definitely a-changing. After all, we’re in the beginning stages of 2011. That’s just a fact. But when you say or hear that the times are changing, the implication is always attitude – people’s attitudes change, the way they live life evolves.

Unfortunately, 2011 is bound to be more of the same for gay athletes in professional sports, especially in the United States.

While the country might have its first black president, a push in the right direction for national healthcare, and a collective awakening on the harmful effects of vitriolic rhetoric, the “man-up” culture of professional sports still shows no room for evolution in thought.

If you were the betting type, you’d probably lose your house attempting to wager that a homosexual male would emerge from one of America’s top sports in this climate. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey – while many of these athletes are surrounded by rumors of homosexuality, this still probably isn’t the year one comes out of the proverbial closet with a rainbow pin.

In fact, the professional sporting culture in America is still so archaic that even professional women athletes seem to be shying away from what a lot of us feel is painfully obvious.

Common sense suggests that a percentage of both men and women in professional sports are gay or lesbian. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not just some feel-good wish of the community. It’s pure numbers – like the odds of catching a 10 when you play blackjack online.

Football outside of America, what we affectionately refer to as soccer, is extremely popular, but even the hottest footballer in Europe cannot rival the pure celebrity of American athletes. Being a celebrity athlete in America is both a livelihood and a lifestyle. The fear of giving that up has most athletes refusing to admit they dope up, cheat or even enjoy the fame, much less that they’re attracted to the same sex.

For the community at large, there’s a lot to be gained once these silly and outdated fears are pushed aside. For professional athletes, however, there’s still a lot to lose – at least that’s the way they approach it.

In the context of pro athletics, someone coming out doesn’t become a hero. They become first a martyr, quickly followed by a pariah. While still playing, athletes will not break loose with a Sister Soldier moment. They will continue to deceive their very own desires and mask their own truth for not necessarily the gain but to wholly avoid potential loss.

It’s unequivocally saddening and explicitly maddening. One ponders the more philosophical side of it all and cannot help but wonder – if we are all excepted to change and to be so accepting of one another, shouldn’t it have to work both ways, with individuals unafraid of hypothesized consequence breaking down barriers instead of hiding safely behind the invisibly imposed standards?

It may not be popular opinion, but gay and lesbian athletes are just as much to blame for the state of affairs as those who would dare impose their hypocritical puritanical standards on them. And until that all changes, public outings will be incredibly few and far between in professional sports.
If this were a quantifiable statistic, you would find the over/under at your local casino or sports book, giving the O/U for voluntarily exposed gay or lesbian athletes at 0. And you better take the 0 if you want to keep your money safe.

It’s unfortunate, but as Robert De Niro so eloquently put it – it is what it is.

Better luck in 2012.